“I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.” W B Yeats
Take a look at the first picture. What do you see in it? If you look closer, what detail is there? This is a photo of a friendship quilt that I helped make in 2018 with a group of women in Bradford from all different faith and cultural backgrounds. The quilt was a creative activity not only in the practical making, but in the friendship and conversations we all had together. As we spent honest, kind time together, we learnt about each other’s lives, beliefs, experiences, hopes and dreams. It was an utter privilege to be a part of the group and it gave me renewed hope for our world, because, when us humans get together and start listening to each other, then understanding, tolerance and justice can thrive.
The second picture shows a prayer weaving activity that I often use with groups: in this instance, students at Bradford University from all different faith groups and none. The idea is that we can all weave our intentions together to make a greater cloth of hope.
I find it interesting that the traditionally female activities of weaving, embroidery and patchwork are often used as similes for brokering collaboration and justice. Could this be because us women (sexist alert!) like a good chinwag and so cannot help but make connections with others, including, when we encounter them, with the other, the stranger, the person who comes from a different world to our own? Or is it actually that there is a principle here; that of listening – that thing that Henri Nouwen calls ‘the ultimate hospitality’? Also, there is something about working together on a creative project, making something together, something positive and life affirming. Perhaps those traditional women’s crafts that mend, patch and embroider the truth lack hierarchy and encourage equity. Such small ‘insignificant’ things are actually hugely important. The following poem suggests as much.
The old threads are unravelling, get your needles ready.
We are stitching a new quilt of humanity.
Bring your old t-shirts, worn out jeans, scarves,
Antique gowns, aprons, old pockets of plenty
Who have held earth’s treasures,
Stones, feathers, leaves, love notes on paper.
Each stitch a mindful meditation.
Each piece of material a story.
The more colour the better, so call in the tribes.
Threads of browns, white, reds, oranges
Women from all nations start stitching.
Let’s recycle the hate, the abuse, the fear, the judgement.
Turn it over, wash it clean, ring it out to dry.
Its revolution of recycled wears.
Threads of greens, blues, purples, colourful threads
Of peace, kindness, respect, compassion
Are being stitched from one continent to the next
Over forests, oceans, mountains.
The work is hard. Your fingers bleed.
But each cloth stitched together
Brings together a community.
A world, our future world under one colourful quilt
The new quilt of humanity
Take time to look at the pictures and consider these questions:
- what friendship circles do you value? what do you learn from them?
- what truth would you like to work for?
- how can you be a part of creating a new quilt of humanity?
You will need needle, thread, scissors and cloth:
- think about the truth you would like to work for
- try embroidering a word of your own truth onto the cloth, stitches guide below. Notice how long it takes, how sometimes you will need to take all the threads out and start again, how you need to focus, what you think about as you make it.
- keep your cloth somewhere meaningful, sew it onto a bag or a cushion or something fabric if you like.